Dutch government to designate Pakistani Christians as ‘high risk group’

L-R Wilson Chowdhry Chairman BPCA, Desmond Fernandes Genocide Scholar and BPCA Lead Researcher, MP Peter Omgitz Chairman Dutch Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mosa Zahid MEFD (After Special Hearing March 2014)

Dutch government to designate Pakistani Christians as ‘high risk group’

Middle East Forum for Development (MEFD) and British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) are delighted with the decision of the Dutch government to designate Pakistani Christians as a ‘risk group’, implicating a major change in the country’s asylum policy towards the minority group that will make it easier for them to be recognised as refugees in The Netherlands.  

Both groups a pleased to have played a significant role in promoting legislation that makes it easier for Pakistani Christians, who have fled their country fearing oppression and discrimination due to their religious beliefs, to obtain asylum in The Netherlands. MEFD organised a Special Hearing in this regard last March at the Dutch House of Representatives in collaboration with BPCA.  (click here) and (click Here). 

The hearing focused on the potential for special status for Pakistani Christians and called upon Dutch MPs to take necessary measures in order to make the asylum process for Pakistani Christians more bearable in the Netherlands. The meeting further highlighted the issues of persecution and discrimination of people of various faiths, cultural identities and several Muslim sects in Pakistan.  It reinforced earlier remonstrations made during an earlier Special Hearing held in April 2013 (click here).

In January 2013, following an extensive campaign by Dutch politicians and human rights groups, the government of The Netherlands recognised the Ahmadiyya religious minority group of Pakistan as a ‘risk group’, but failed to grant the same special status to Pakistani Christians despite heavy persecutions.

In November this year, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently published a new official report on the position of Christians and Ahmadis in Pakistan, it cites a submission by the BPCA to the UN Universal Periodic Review in 2012, as one of the sources.  Read copy (click here)

On 18
th December of this year, the Dutch government informed the chair of the House of Representatives in The Hague about the change in the asylum policy regarding Pakistani Christians. This signifies that if a Pakistani Christian can demonstrate that he encounters problems because of his religious beliefs, the Dutch authorities will rapidly conclude that these problems are also sufficiently compelling to issue an asylum permit.

Following the latest development, Mosa Zahed, founding director of Middle East Forum for Development, emphasised that “It is commendable that the Dutch government recognises Pakistani Christians as a risk group which guarantees them safety and protection in The Netherlands. However the issue of rising extremism in Pakistan remains largely un-addressed, leading to increasing attacks on ethnic and religious minorities, but also children are being targeted now as we have witnessed in Peshawar”.

Wilson Chowdhry Chairman of the BPCA, was excited by the news, but believed Britain should follow suit he said;  The BPCA is delighted by the Dutch government’s decision to categorise Christians as ‘risk group’. Such a pronouncement acknowledges the persecution and polarisation Pakistani Christians endure on a daily basis. All too often, Christians are at risk from serious physical assault and death. The Dutch government’s decision is a landmark recognition of human rights. The BPCA calls on the UK government to do likewise.”

Guest Speakers and Foreign Affairs committee MP’s

Mosa Zahid and Wilson Chowdhry

MP Pieter Omzigtz of the Christian Democrats Party, Michiel Servaes of the Labour Party and Joël Voordewind of the Christian Union